Lyon goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre has called on France coach Didier Deschamps to select veteran midfielder Steed Malbranque for the friendly against Italy later this month. Malbranque is enjoying a wonderful spell of form after a troubled 18 months which saw him leave Sunderland for St Etienne only to cancel his contract with Les Verts due to a lack of enjoyment.
He re-emerged at Lyon - the club for whom he made his professional debut in 1998 - at the start of the season and has been a revelation. The 32-year-old was again instrumental in Les Gones' 5-2 win over Bastia yesterday, scoring from the penalty spot for his first Ligue 1 goal in almost 12 years.
Afterwards, Vercoutre told reporters: "If you have a coach who does not care about age then he must call up Malbranque. Honestly, I would like him to be called up. It will happen soon and he deserves it so much. He is our main man, our 'Mister Plus'."
Malbranque has been included in a France squad just once, in 2004 for a friendly against the Netherlands, but did not get on the pitch. Vercoutre believes the former Fulham man has the necessary skills to slot straight into Les Bleus set-up and inspire those around him.
He added: "He wins the ball, he gives it and he scores goals. Everyone is in tune with Steed. He does not score many goals but what he does is so impressive. If I was a selector I would take him. I have not seen anyone as good as him for a long time."
The defeat of Bastia moved Lyon within a point of the Ligue 1 summit after a madcap game at the Stade Gerland. Seven different goalscorers, three penalties and two red cards made for an entertaining afternoon, the hosts squandering a two-goal lead before pulling ahead again in the second half.
Maxime Gonalons and Alexandre Lacazette put Lyon in control but Wahbi Khazri and Jerome Rothen pulled Bastia level, the latter with a spot-kick after Dejan Lovren was sent off. Lisandro Lopez restored Lyon's lead from 12 yards after Fethi Harek was dismissed and Jimmy Briand and Malbranque scored in stoppage time to give the scoreline a misleadingly one-sided look.
Lyon coach Remi Garde admitted it was a strange afternoon. "It was a crazy game and it became completely mad after both teams had had a player sent off," he told www.ligue1.com. "The sending-off of Dejan Lovren was not a good thing but the team adapted well to the change in system, with two lines of four and one striker.
"There some good and bad things to take out of the game. On the positive side, we played well going forward and created lots of chances. But defensively we got ourselves into trouble rather easily. These are things we are aware of and need to work on. It will be harder in the coming games with the suspensions that are killing us at the moment."
His Bastia counterpart Frederic Hantz bemoaned his side's errors which he felt contributed to their defeat. He said: "The first two goals came from us making silly mistakes, but we did really well to come back to 2-2. To do that at Lyon when you are 2-0 down is great.
"We were in an ideal situation at half-time but the start of the second period was always going to be decisive if we wanted to win the game. Lyon got the goal, and ultimately we deserved to lose the game. We needed to limit the number of errors. The start of the second half was crucial."